The International Olympic Committee (IOC) warned numerous athletes Thursday against wearing unapproved headphone brands, including Beats by Dr. Dre.
The organization prohibits athletes from advertising anything other than the products and services provided by a hand-picked list of 11 international companies. These companies each pay about $100 million for global sponsorship rights at the Olympics.
British officials noticed that one headphones brand, Beats by Dr. Dre, was particularly popular amongst the athletes. At first, diver Tom Daley was spotted wearing them before a competition, and then footballer Jack Butland tweeted his support for the brand.
“Loving my new GB Beats by Dre #TeamGB #Beats,” he wrote.
But this wasn’t on the officials’ list of approved products. It turned out that Beats Electronics, the Santa Monica-based company in question, decided to bypass the IOC’s advertising rules by shipping boxes of the headphones to the Shoreditch House, a private club sheltering some nearby Olympians.
This revelation, along with Butland’s tweet, prompted an immediate response from officials.
Darryl Seibel, spokesman for the British Olympic Association, reminded his teammates about “the importance of protecting our corporate partners,” including a rule barring athletes from endorsing unauthorized products on Twitter and on other social media.
According to Reuters, IOC spokesman Mark Adams maintained a calmer perspective.
“We have to take a commonsense approach,” said Adams. “There is a difference between someone using equipment with a logo and someone promoting the brand.”
For others, the quest for absolute control goes too far.
The Games has now hired employees whose sole job it is to shut down rogue WiFi hotspots and 3G hubs, allowing only one company, BT, to provide communications services. Olympics officials have warned that all competitors will be found and their activities terminated.
Sadao Turner, Director of New Media at Ryan Seacrest Productions, tweeted one of the first pictures of these “WiFi police” in action with their large red detectors encompassing signal-locating antennas.
But would the Olympics really be “the Olympics” without this control-centered obsession? Tradition says otherwise.
During the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, officials went so far to cover the logos imprinted on rolls of toilet paper in the bathrooms. And they’ve done the same thing in London this round. Since media outlets typically don’t delve into toilets for fun, it is unclear who the Olympics are trying to hide the logos from.
The Games has even sent about 300 employees around the country searching for businesses that are associating themselves with the Olympics in an unauthorized manner. The existence of this phenomenon, despite reports of an entirely understaffed and unprepared security, is forcing many people to grumble about whether officials should reassess their priorities.
“The Olympics are essentially mercantile events,” writes Christopher Westley at the Mises Institute. “Planning takes place outside of market forces so as to achieve outcomes preferred not by consumers but by states.”